Plot-driven suspense book ‘Fuzzy Mud’ is a surefire hit with middle schoolers
Special to the Whig
Hidden away in small-town Pennsylvania is SunRay Farm. It is a farm in the normal sense of the word: it grows mass quantities of its particular crop in order to sell to the rest of the nation. But that is really the beginning and end of its being a typical “farm.”
If you are able to get past the barbed wire and electric fences, past the alarms and cameras, and past the armed security guards, you will see nothing but hundreds of storage tanks. Beneath those storage tanks is a series of tunnels leading to the secret laboratories of the scientists who act as SunRay Farm’s “farmers.” They are developing a microorganism that will change the world, though whether it will be for the better or not is questionable. These microorganisms are the center of “Fuzzy Mud” by Louis Sachar.
Thirty-three miles southeast of SunRay Farm is the little town of Heath Cliff, which is home to the prestigious private school Woodbridge Academy. Surrounding the school is a thick forest that every student knows they must never enter. Fifth-grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh-grader Marshall Walsh are the only two students who live close enough to the school that they can walk home each day and they must, under order of their respective parents, stay together. But when Marshall starts being bullied by new kid Chad Hilligas and is challenged to a fight, Marshall decides to take a “shortcut” through the forest to avoid him, and he drags Tamaya with him.
In the forest, they discover exactly what it is that SunRay Farm is creating: puddles of “fuzzy mud” have been spread throughout the woods and coming in contact with that mud has dangerous consequences. When Chad follows Marshall and Tamaya into the woods, it sets off a chain of reactions that will spread through the entire world.
The main narrative alternates with transcripts from a series of Senate Committee hearings on SunRay farm and the dangers and benefits of its “crop.” This format creates a sense of suspense that left me, a pretty wellread adult, waiting very impatiently to see what happens next.
“Fuzzy Mud” has all of the qualities of a solid middle grade book. It deals with topics that elementary and middle schoolers want to read about, it has a wry sense of humor that children and adults alike can enjoy, and it has a unique story that helps create dialogue about important hypotheticals.
For more information, title availability and reading recommendations, please visit the Cecil County Public Library’s website at cecil.ebranch. info, facebook.com/cecilcountypubliclibrary, call 410-996-5600 or stop by any branch.
Targonski’s work is full of subtle additions, such as the yellow, circular additions included in this photo.